Dr. David J. Childs, Ph.D
Northern Kentucky University
Election season is upon us and true to form, there is widespread talk of voter suppression. A recent debate is over the United Postal service and the role it will play in allowing people to vote during the coronavirus pandemic. As more and more restrictions are placed on the US Postal Service people are starting to argue that it looks like voter suppression. A New York Times article entitled Trump Is Pushing a False Argument on Vote-by-Mail Fraud. Here Are the Facts makes this case. An article in the Texas Tribune entitled Democrats, Local Election Leaders Fear Donald Trump’s Attacks On Mail-in Voting Foreshadow Voter Suppression also makes the same argument. But of course, voter suppression is nothing new. The Voting Rights Alliance lists 61 forms of voter suppression here. In light of the upcoming general election we have decided to re-post a previous article and resources on voter suppression below.
Originally Published September 9, 2019
Voting in a Democracy- Lessons on Voter Suppression
Section 1- The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Section 1- The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
The above amendments ostensibly guaranteed the right of Americans to vote regardless of their race or class. These amendments were passed in an effort to stop the disenfranchisement of African Americans, especially in the south. The 15th amendment guaranteed black men the right to vote and the 24th amendment made the poll tax illegal. The amendments were written to stop voter suppression.
Voter suppression is a variety of methods used to change election results by stopping and disrupting the voting of specific groups of people. Voter suppression is different from political campaigning. With political campaigning candidates attempt to change the opinions and practices of their voting of through persuasion and organization. However, the goal of voter suppression is to reduce the number of voters who might vote against a candidate or proposition.
“The tactics of voter suppression range from minor changes to make voting less convenient, to physically intimidating and even physically attacking prospective voters, which is illegal. Voter suppression can be effective if a significant number of voters are intimidated or disenfranchised.”
Lesson Plans and Resources on Voter Suppression
Teaching the Truth About Voter Suppression
The Voting Rights Act, 1965 and beyond
Voter Suppression Lesson Plan
Barriers to Voting
Lesson Plan: To Vote or Not to Vote
Lesson Activity- Who gets to Vote?
Voter Fraud? Or Voter Suppression?
Fighting Voter Suppression
Voter-Suppression Tactics in the Age of Trump
Voter Oppression in the United States
This piece, in my opinion, provides an excellent opportunity for classroom discussion. However, I believe it is equally vital to encourage students to consider how legislation and constitutional amendments are drafted, negotiated, and written.
There are many different ways that voter suppression efforts effect democracy and it is imperative for students to be aware of what to look out for and how to combat these problems. Not just the issues covered by the 14th and 25th amendments, but the ways that groups try to sidestep the law and still sway the voting results unjustly. A common issue that many people are unaware of, for example, is gerrymandering: the process of partitioning congressional districts to corral all of the opposition into one district to ensure that they win the minimum seats possible. Additionally there are misinformation campaigns that have become especially popular nowadays to simply discourage voters from showing up in the first place. These are just a few examples of the ways that voter suppression still exists despite the safeguards instituted in our constitution.
I think this is a topic that we should cover in our classrooms. We can use this as a tool to talk about the constitution and its amendments as it pertains to voting. We can have a discussion on what those amendments actually say and wither or not rights are being violated based on those amendments.